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An artificial lateral line for flow sensing and control

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Investigators: Michael TRIANTAFYLLOU (MIT), Jeff LANG (MIT), MIAO Jianmin (NTU)
Students: Audrey MAERTENS (MIT), Jeff DUSEK (MIT), Ajay KOTTAPALI (SMART-NTU), Mandy WOO (MIT)

Description: ​The lateral line is a very important organ in fish. It allows them to sense the flow around them and determine how they interact with it. Among other applications, fish use their lateral line to align themselves with the flow (rheotaxis), detect prey and identify obstacles. Man-made vehicles equipped with an artificial lateral line could take advantage of such sensing capabilities. Local flow sensing could allow underwater vehicles to minimize energy expenditure or even extract energy from the flow. It could also allow for the detection and identification of nearby objects and obstacles without the need of a sonar, spotlight and camera. Our projects aim at interpreting measurements from pressure sensor arrays mounted on underwater vehicles to reveal global flow properties (flow velocity and orientation), environmental and self generated local flow features (such as vortices), as well as nearby solid boundaries (obstacle detection and object identification). ​​

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The lateral line is a very important organ in fish. It allows them to sense the flow around them and determine how they interact with it. Among other applications, fish use their lateral line to align themselves with the flow (rheotaxis), detect prey and identify obstacles. Man-made vehicles equipped with an artificial lateral line could take advantage of such sensing capabilities. Local flow sensing could allow underwater vehicles to minimize energy expenditure or even extract energy from the flow. It could also allow for the detection and identification of nearby objects and obstacles without the need of a sonar, spotlight and camera. Our projects aim at interpreting measurements from pressure sensor arrays mounted on underwater vehicles to reveal global flow properties (flow velocity and orientation), environmental and self generated local flow features (such as vortices), as well as nearby solid boundaries (obstacle detection and object identification).



Vorticity (top) and pressure (bottom) around an airfoil passing a cylinder. The flow gener​ated by the airfoil and its interaction with the cylinder generate distinct flow features that result in a very characteristic pressure distribution around the airfoil.